Thursday, July 26, 2012

From SGT Eric Williams, military blogger

SGT Williams was wrapping up a one-year deployment in Afghanistan with the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne when he was killed by enemy fire at his forward operating base. This is his last post on his blog July 17.

This deployment is coming to an end, in a few days we will be on a plane back to the United States to rejoin our family and friends and to try to readjust to a certain semblance of what we think life should be. The truth is everything has changed, we collectively have changed. We have changed as people, as an army, as citizens of the United States.  We face uncertainty in nearly every aspect of our lives.  Our families have been without us for a year and we have only two weeks to try to enjoy the extremely limited time we have with them before its back to the daily grind. Two weeks to try to reconnect, although this process can take weeks, months or even years. There is no promise that any of us will return unchanged.  But we collectively have been granted access to something few ever see, or choose to see for that matter. We have bared witness to the atrocities of war. We have thrust ourselves into the midst of chaos in order to do something so important, so visceral, that few will ever understand what it means. We collectively have risked it all and put everything on the line to save our fellow man, regardless of nationality, race, religion or sex.  I for one will reflect on these experiences for decades to come.  And I know my comrades will as well.  I cannot begin to describe the things we’ve seen, felt, or heard. We have lost brothers and colleagues. We have felt the sting of losing someone we tried our hardest to save.  We have cleaned up the blood and reset our equipment in order to go back out and do it again. These people I work with are some of the most dedicated men and women I have ever met. They come from all walks of life and although different in so many aspects, all come together collectively to accomplish this mission. I’m proud to say that I work with some of the most professional people there are. But now we are going home. Were out of this god forsaken country, but we take with us the weight of a thousand missions. To try to dissect them as best we know how.  
                Now I am preparing to jump on a plane and return to a world that I don’t really understand anymore. When I was younger I used to think I had it figured out. The older I get and the more aware I become the more lost I feel. There is a widening gap between service member and civilian, our economy is still struggling, jobs are scarce and I can only sit back and watch as our home slips into a more prevalent ideology of entitlement.  Where we are inundated with political pressures, told how to think and feel, who to vote for because of a political party, and try to voice our intolerance by “liking” a status on Facebook. It’s sickening to me now.  Our youth are hamstringed by a failing education system, the poor are being cast out and pushed aside.  Veterans of these wars are living at an all-time high of homelessness and joblessness. You can’t throw a rock in this country without hitting dozens of heavily medicated veterans. But the general public cares less and less about them and us. For the general public, unless you have something personally invested in these wars they just want to get along with their day.  Without having to be reminded of what these men and women endure on a daily basis. Its unfathomable to them. Thus the widening gap grows. In times of random occurrence we hear “thank you for your service” in an airport, a restaurant, in passing at the realization that you served, although I’m sure most appreciate it. I know when I hear it, it almost sounds forced. Like it’s some sort of requirement to say. It’s become trite and cliché and it just feels fake. I’m sorry if this just hit a little too close to home for some of you reading this but I’m just tired of trying to appease everyone I come across. The truth is that the general American public couldn’t give a shit about us. They want their Starbucks and celebrity gossip and their “16 and pregnant” We are breeding a generation of young people who have no idea what this country is founded on or what its citizens had to go through in order to make this country great and more about what time jersey shore is on. We are losing…we are struggling. Not in some great sense of the word as though every generation has its great struggle.  We are just losing. Losing ground on what we thought was right, what we thought life was supposed to be, and we are becoming very pissed off.  It seems that the more time passes by and the longer im away from the US the angrier I become.  We cannot live in a world where we hold onto the ideals that bitching solves anything, where we believe that things will be taken care of for us. If you want something done, go out and get it done…period.
So in closing, while reading this you might think I’ve become some angry disillusioned man, someone who sees things so much different than the average citizen, well maybe your right. But I can only hope that things someday will change. As for our accomplishments here in Afghanistan, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I will forever hold these experiences close.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

From SGT Mark M. Middlebrook:

   Memorial Day is considered the unofficial start of summer and indeed it probably is.  Today across this vast and beautiful country of ours backyard barbecues are being put to good use, friends and family are traveling near and far, and bathing suits are being donned.  While Memorial Day has become a treasured holiday to finally shrug off winter and welcome summer we must not forget the day’s true meaning.  Memorial 
Day is not a day for our honorable veterans; Memorial Day is instead a day when we honor those no longer among us.  It is a day to honor those who answered a far off call and never returned home.  They answered the call knowing they may lose their lives but did so in order to preserve something that they love, something much greater than any one individual.
            We take time to remember this nation's fallen sons and daughters but we must also remember their families.  They all lost a piece of themselves the day they each received the terrible news brought to them from a foreign land.  They are left here in this life forced to bear the pain and continue the memory of a fallen patriot.  They must never be forced to bear such a burden alone.  The ones they lost did not give their lives solely for their families; they gave their most precious possession so that torch of freedom could continue to illuminate the world.  They gave their lives for each and everyone of us who knows what it means to be free.  So I ask that all who hear or read these words take a moment and remember those valiant men and women as well as their families.  Take a moment so that we may all share the burden that is the cost of the American way of life.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Red Falcon deployment from April 2010

FORT BRAGG, N.C. – The 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Division Ready Force one of the Global Response Force has received orders to deploy to Afghanistan in May in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
This deployment is the ninth deployment for a 2nd BCT unit since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
For the past 19 months, the 2nd BCT has been the forcible entry component of the Nation’s Global Response Force. The Battalion recently participated in Operation Unified Response, providing humanitarian assistance in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck there in January.
The battalion will take part in the International Security Assistance Force effort increasing the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces and improving security for the Afghan people.
The remainder of the BCT will continue to serve as the Army Component of the GRF, prepared to deploy on short notice contingency operations anywhere in the world.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

End of an era: Atlantis

Photos by Mike M.

Space shuttle Atlantis on its last mission. I was hoping to go but was still dealing with the after effects of radiation therapy. Maybe in November.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our patriotic dogs on Armed Forces Day

Olustee (left - named after a Civil War battle) and Glider (right- named after 1st battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Prayer request

This is from one of the class of  Leadership Jacksonville 2010:
One of my classmates from JU, Andy Conrad, former Naval Aviator and now a Delta pilot, has a 20 year-old nephew from Jacksonville who was grievously wounded by an IED in Afghanistan late last week.  His name is Tyler Southern and he has lost both legs and one arm, and may still lose the other.  He arrived at Bethesda two days ago via Germany where he is just starting to come out of consciousness.
A couple of things have happened since I learned this from Andy.
  • I alerted one of my former Navy bosses, Rear Admiral Kevin Delaney because he is on the board of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) which is based here in Jacksonville, but serves injured combat veterans all over the country.
  • He in turn alerted the WWP Bethesda team who actively and personally assisted the family upon Tyler's arrival from Germany.
  • One of Tyler's former high school classmates now apparently works for the new Jacksonville Sharks Arena Football League team, and tomorrow night the Sharks are playing a home game at 7:35 PM and originally intended to donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Tyler to aid in his recovery.
  • Tyler's family has unselfishly asked that those proceeds instead be donated to WWP so that even more injured veterans will benefit.
  • Since the immediate family is bedside in Bethesda, my friend Andy will accept the donation at mid-field (mid-arena?) on behalf of the family and WWP.
I am asking you to join me tomorrow night at the game, or at least alert your friends that tomorrow (Friday, May 14) is Military Appreciation Night for the Sharks game and that with their attendance they will be supporting a local hero and a great cause.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Military calendar for Jacksonville

UP-COMING EVENTS—For your calendar:
May 17—USS Stark Memorial Service—NS Mayport—10 a.m.
May 18—Northeast Florida Veterans Council Meeting—7 p.m. City Hall
May 22—Honor Air Flight to Washington, DC for WWII Vets
May 31—Memorial Day Observance—Memorial Wall—10 a.m.
May 31—Memorial Day Observance—Jacksonville National Cemetery—2 p.m.
June 5—Never Quit Beach Festival—Jax Beach Pier
June 5—Battle of Midway Dinner
August 7—Purple Heart Ceremony
Oct 21-24—Jacksonville Salute to the Sea Services and National Navy League Convention
Oct 23-24—NAS Jacksonville Blue Angels Air Show
Nov 10—Marine and Navy Corpsmen Memorial Service—Evergreen Cemetery

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

I haven't properly thanked the leaders of our Family Readiness Group. Not only did they have their own family to attend to but they had to attend to young wives and horror-filled parents of soldiers on deployment....while their own husbands were deployed. We would have never made it without them.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

And have a Happy Mother's Day. You've earned it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Military Appreciation Day - PGA Tour

Top: Branch colors.
Bottom: an Anhinga salute

Wednesday was Military Appreciation Day put on by the PGA Tour for The Players Championship. Northrup-Grumman sponsors a Patriot Outpost, in which active duty or retired military are treated free food and drinks and some relief from the heat.

Gayle and I dropped by to connect with the Wounded Warrior Project to drop off a donation from our Internet brother Abnpoppa.  The Project staff was out coordinating events for wounded vets but the PGA Tour volunteers let us in for lunch and place to sit.

The day also included a concert by Tim McGraw and a fly-by from the Blue Angels. It was a wonderful day and those of us who are "accidental" military families were greatly appreciative.
Mark and I finally connected with the Wounded Warrior Project and the donation was made.

(Pops, your card is on the way)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Military Appreciation Day - my neighborhood

For the last few years, my neighborhood celebrates our veterans with a Military Appreciation Day ceremony. Here are some pictures from this year's event:

Our neighbor Chuck Ellis who is a Pearl Harbor survivor

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For sale

I was googling around this weekend and found a website that was selling Mark's Armed Forces Fan of the Game card by Topps. They wanted 60 cents. Seems to me he is worth more than that.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The greatest generation

Photos by Mark M.

On a recent trip to Washington, I was doing on National Mall crawl when I happened upon a group of veterans from Ohio. Through Jeremy Bloom's Wish of a Lifetime Foundation arranged a three-day bus trip to D.C. Most of the vets and their spouses had never been to Washington D.C. so they had never seen the World War II Memorial.  On hand to greet them was the former commander of the USS Cole and a Marine two-star. It was touching event and hundreds of Spring Breakers and cherry blossom tourists gathered to honor them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The volcano

from the NY Times:

The United States military has already been affected. Supplies for military operations in Afghanistan have been disrupted, and a spokeswoman for the Pentagon said that all medical evacuation flights from Iraq and Afghanistan to Germany, where most injured soldiers are typically treated, were being diverted directly to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

SSG Murphrey: a true hero

"On 4 APR 09, SSG Murphrey performed above and beyond his duties during the broad spectrum of combat operations his squad endured. Securing a defensive position, SSG Murphrey’s squad came under heavy direct enemy fire that impacted in his immediate vicinity causing his Squad to drop behind cover in shallow ditch.

SSG Murphrey, with no regard to his personal safety, moved through the hail of enemy fire, positioned himself where he could provide an effective support by fire, for his Squad to follow. SSG Murphrey screened the enemy with smoke, and laid down accurate fires, simultaneously emplacing his squad behind cover, and then assigned sectors of fire to be covered by his multiple weapon systems.

SSG Murphrey then provided Support by fire so his Platoon Leader could move through open terrain to conduct link up with the other element of his platoon. SSG Murphrey then courageously led the assault forward to clear the enemy’s strong point that his
platoon was pinned down from, drawing enemy fire himself.

He coordinated the entry on the movement forward and secured the foothold to the house the insurgents were occupying. SSG Murphrey was the key element that allowed the platoon to clear the first objective without flaw, with very little support by fire do to the open terrain.

After clearing the first objective nearly single-handedly, he continued to lead his element towards a tree line that more suspected insurgents were occupying. After bounding around the base of a hill, SSG Murphrey’s squad came under direct enemy heavy machine gun fire, later identified as a NSV. Once again, without regard to personal safety, SSG Murphrey bounded forward, through the imminent danger ensuing to his front, placing effective small arms fire upon the enemy, enabling his Squad to take cover in the open field.

SSG Murphrey then valiantly maneuvered his element through the enemy’s wall of fire, returning fire leaving him in exposed, and in jeopardy for the safety of his Soldiers. Once behind cover, he marked obscured enemy targets with precise accuracy exposing their position. This enabled A-10 aircraft to fix, and finish the insurgent forces with their heavy volume of multiple weapon systems.

SSG Murphrey’s actions on this day allowed the safe exfiltration of all members of his platoon, simultaneously weakening the insurgency network in this Global War on Terror and strengthened the political future of the Nation of Afghanistan. SSG Murphrey’s actions on this day reflect great credit upon himself, the Army, The Geronimo Battalion, and The Spartan Brigade. "

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another friend

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Sgt. Sean M. Durkin, 24, of Aurora, Colo. died April 9 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device near Forward Operating Base Wilson, Afghanistan, on March 27. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, Fort Carson, Colo.